dimanche, février 22, 2009

Tips for my parishioners....

that may help them understand their chaplain!

I found a website that supposes to help American people understand France and the French. I am quite sceptical about that, because I am not so sure that the French can be understood by anyone except the French themselves..... No, it is a joke!!!!! But it reminds me of this text by Charles Peguy who put these words in God's mouth: When there will be no more French, there are things that I do that nobody will understand.
Anyway, I find this website funny... and interesting too. Do I match the description? Well, those who know me can tell.
Some excerpts from the website

Are the French crazy ?
The French, who pride themselves on being " logical ", are profoundly irrealistic and passionate. " We express ourselves logically in order to explain the illogical things that we do ". Among many examples, they value :
Being different : they do not feel uncomfortable being alone against everybody else (they would not think " maybe the others are right ") and do not value consensus.
Being synthetic (as opposed to analytic) : they do not like "weighing pros and cons" : it is mediocre. They prefer broad ideas and general picture. They write differently their business memos.
Being " grands seigneurs " : in many situations (when prestige or image are at stake), money is not an issue and they do not like to share bills the way Americans do.
Being negative : criticizing is valued and praising is not : it could lead the praised one to stop making efforts (typically, when a kid gets an B+, the reaction is "Why not an A?"). And also :
no taxpayers' rebellion, in spite of taxes being so high in France during public transport strikes, people who have to walk to their work, support the strikers.

And that is very important :

France is a "wine culture" country, like Italy or Spain (as opposed to "beer culture" countries) ; people do not drink wine to get drunk but to share a moment together ; they like to talk about it, discuss its taste, if it goes well or not with the food, etc...
In France you do not call (and order) a wine by its grape (Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet, etc...) but by its origin (Saint-Emilion, Pommard, Bandol, ...). The shape of the bottle is specific to each region : narrow for Alsace, cylindrical for Bordeaux, plump for Burgundy, etc...
Only the wine coming from the region of Champagne can be called "Champagne" but there are several other (very good) sparkling white wines : Vouvray, Crémant, Clairette, Blanquette...

The Wood-Shaving-War : to taste good and age well, wine requires tannin, which is traditionally provided by oak barrels. In many countries, typically in the USA, wine in stored in metallic barrels and wood shavings are added. This is strictly prohibited by French regulation. France has to fight against the European administration which, under the pressure of countries which do not produce any wine, want to make it legal. It is feared that this war will be lost.
And I like this one: Driving in Paris!
Consider (like they do you) any other driver as an enemy and a potential threat. Selfishness, lack of civic sense and aggressivity of French drivers is beyond anything you can imagine.... Driving in Paris is a real sport ! If you can drive around the Arch of Triumph at 6 p.m. and survive, you are becoming a real Parisian.
USEFUL TIPS for innocent American drivers in Paris.....
Do NOT take the concept of "lanes" too seriously : like the concept of "priority" for cars coming from the right, it is purely indicative (like, sometimes, red lights, pedestrian crossings, etc....)
When parking your car, you may hit (gently!) the two cars you are squished between.
You can scare pedestrians and make them run : it is part of the game.
Delivery trucks can do whatever they want (like double park) and as long as they want : if you are blocked, do not wait and try to escape.

Traffic at Place de l'Etoile
(It can be worst!)
Important question: Why are the French so cold?
In the absence of any relationship, silence is neutral (in the street, in an elevator, etc...). Franco-American anthropologist Raymonde Carroll writes: "It is indeed in public places that Americans in France for the first time have the experience, at times amusing, but often unpleasant and even painful of cultural misundrestanding. They feel rejected, disapproved of, criticized or scorned without understanding the reason for this "hostility" and they can only draw one of two conclusions : the French hate Americans" or the French are cold (hostile / unpleasant / arrogant / despicable)"... This is essentially due to the fact that Americans and the French do not attribute the same meaning to verbal exchanges.... together in a limited space ...the French person will recreate distance with silence, the American with conversation..." .
For most French, Americans are over-communicative and too familiar and they are always very disappointed to see that this American who was so nice and friendly does not even remember their name. For the French, if you are not a friend, you must be not cold but neutral. If your are socially too friendly with them, they think you are unsincere.
When they disagree, the French express it verbally much openly than Americans, who are more controlled and they are not at all afraid of a verbal fight. They even enjoy it. One of the best explanations for this was given by Nick Yapp and Michel Syrett in " Xenophobe's Guide to the French " . It's simply a factual matter. The French, they point out, are rude when they want to be. Their rudeness is neither unthinking nor forgetful, they say. They're rude when the occasion warrants it. Are they rude only to innocent foreigners ? Of course not !
" Among friends insults are also frequently traded, but with no permanent damage to the relationships. Quite a different case from England and the U.S. where if you get to that level, the friendship is condemned for life ". The point of all this is that if foreigners freak because they detect rudeness, irony, or a slight, they should feel flattered. They're being treated as if they were French ! A typical situation where Americans consider rude a Frenchman who is sincerely surprised by this reaction is the case of an instructor who treats you as if you were a French student, whatever the money you paid. Body language, which is very different, may also explain why Americans often consider rude a French person when he/she is not. The French love to bawl each other out ("s'engueuler") and it can be just a game and in any case totally harmless : Americans hate it and consider it rude.

5 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

This is really good, Father and also quite funny. I'll forward it to my poor American husband who has been struggling with our differences for the past 30 years until we went to live in France for 3 years in Lyon (and we know how the Lyonnais are..). He came to realize he had in fact married the "mildest" French person ! I would like to take the opportunity to thank my dear husband for the good "training" he has given me over the years. If it was not for his patience, I don't know where we would be.

Father Demets a dit…

Oui je pense qu'il faut vraiment vivre dans un pays etranger pour comprendre les raisons (et ainsi mieux les apprehender ) des differences culturelles. Par ailleurs cela apporte aussi un nouveau regard sur son propre pays.
Je me souviens d'une petite anecdote amusante. J'etais avec un groupe de fideles americains dans le sud de la France, en Catalogne plus exactement, region ou les caracteres sont bien trempes. Et nous avons assiste a une discussion assez animee entre un pretre et une paroissienne qui n'etait ouvertement pas d'accord. Bref une scene quotidienne de la vie mediteranneenne tres en couleur. Et je voyais mes pauvres americains se decomposer au fur et a mesure que la discussion se deroulait. L'un d'eux me demanda "Father, que se passe'til?" Je lui repondais que tout allait bien et qu'ils ne faisaient que discuter ( sachant par ailleurs que les deux personnes en questions s'estimaient beaucoup ). Mes fideles americains decouvraient une discussion a la Francaise sauce catalane, il est vrai. Quand a moi, je riais tout simplement de la situation quelque peu surealiste !

Anonyme a dit…

Apres un sejour ici nous voyons notre pays sous un angle completement different(comme l'ex. que vous nous donnez). Je reconnais avoir beaucoup appris des Americains. Une chose est certaine: ce n'est pas evident de vivre a l'etranger.
Au fait, M. l'abbe, je n'ai pas encore eu l'occasion d'aller en Arkansas bien que nous soyons voisins (d'Austin a chez vous, j'en ai bien pour 8 a 9h de route) mais je suis allee a Atlanta et n'ai pas manque d'aller jusqu'a Mableton. Charmante petite eglise, les statues, les reliques, l'atmosphere, tout etait tres propice a la priere.

Anonyme a dit…

Abbe, I am so glad you posted this. It IS difficult for most to instinctually understand the French on a gut level. I have defended you many a time when people just didn't understand that it's just a 'FRENCH THING ';) It takes some people awhile to 'compute that through their heads and some still never really understand the concept of ambient culture. The French people are truly a grand tresure and Peguy's quote is quite perfect, excellent, and exacting. I will remember it when trying to explain. I wish I could explain to all that you are so marvelous and if they think something negative it is the case; that they are misunderstanding you and assuming. You can have them call me ;) Shoopie sends big hugs to her Goddaddy :) I wouldn't have chosen a weirdo for Shoop's Godfather for goodness sake! I chose you on purpose because you are crazy of course LOLOL~~~;)

Anonyme a dit…

And anyway I completely agree with the French. Did I ever tell you that the first time I ever truly felt like I belonged somewhere and fit in was when I was in France at 15. It was the most wonderful feeling.